World news story

UK-India call for wider use of vaccines to tackle drug-resistant infections

More investment needs to go into developing these products.


A recent study by British Economist Lord Jim O’Neil, chairman of the review on Anti Microbial Resistance (AMR) has come up with path breaking recommendations which challenge the prevalent practices on drug resistance. The 6th report on the review on Anti Microbial Resistance was published on 11 February that sets out that there are too few vaccines and alternative approaches to antibiotics available for doctors to use to tackle many of our most urgent drug resistance threats.

Lord Jim O’Neill, chairman of the review on AMR, said:

The problem of drug-resistant infections could be compared to a slow-motion car crash – one that has sadly already begun. 700,000 people are already dying every year from resistant infections, rising to 10 million a year by 2050 without action to hit the brakes now. Antibiotics are important to tackle this threat, but if we can encourage the development and use of vaccines and other alternatives we give the world a better chance of beating drug-resistance.

This is the latest in a series of reports by the review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), before the final recommendations are made to the UK Prime Minister in May 2016, which will set out a package of actions to tackle drug-resistant infections globally.

The report recommends that vaccines can be useful to combat drug resistance because they reduce the number of infections and avoid antibiotics being used, which is a key driver of drug resistance. But vaccine development takes a long time, often more than 10 years, and is expensive, with the vast majority of potential vaccines failing to reach the market.

In addition to vaccines and in response to the growing threat of drug-resistant infections, there are many new areas of scientific research emerging that could become alternatives to antibiotics or help reduce our dependence on them by preventing infections. However, for many of the most worrying drug-resistant diseases the current pace of progress and funding offers little to no hope that new products will be available in the next five to ten years.

India has taken AMR as a serious issue and the Ministry for Health and Family Welfare is organising the Global AMR Conclave, from February 23-25, 2016 at New Delhi, at which Chief Medical Officer of UK, Dame Sally Davies will be present, along with members of Lord O’Neill’s review team, and UK’s charity NESTA which runs the Longitude Prize.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd., Pune, India, said:

Increased resistance to antimicrobials is a global problem of immense concern and implementing the strategies outlined in Lord O’Neill’s report is an important priority. Ensuring that comprehensive use of WHO approved vaccines occurs is an important starting point.

Further information:

  • AMR or ‘antimicrobial resistance’ is the term used to describe drug-resistant infections, sometimes referred to as ‘superbugs’. Antimicrobials include antibiotics (which act only on bacteria), antivirals, antiparasitics and antifungals.

  • the report, vaccines and alternative approaches to reduce our dependence on antimicrobials, will be published on the review’s website on Thursday 11 February.

  • the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, commissioned the review on Antimicrobial Resistance in July of last year to address the growing global problem of drug-resistant infections. It is chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill and backed by the Wellcome Trust and the UK government.

  • Lord Jim O’Neill is the current Commercial Secretary to HM Treasury, as well as the chairman of the review on AMR. He is an internationally published economist and until 2013 was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, having previously been the organisation’s head of economic research. Before chairing the review on Antimicrobial Resistance, he led the Cities Growth Commission which played a central role in the government’s decision to devolve significant new powers to large urban centres in the UK starting with Manchester and the Northern Powerhouse project. He is particularly well known for his work in relation to developing and middle-income economies, having coined the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) acronym – meaning that he is especially well-placed to understand the broad range of international interests raised by antimicrobial resistance.

  • while action to encourage the use and development of vaccines and alternative approaches is crucial to tackling AMR, this represents one part of the solution to the diverse challenges of increasing drug resistance, as outlined in our previous papers and those still to be published in 2016. The review will be covering health infrastructure in the coming months, before producing its final report in May 2016.

  • the Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation that spends more than £700 million a year on advancing human and animal health. It is the second highest-spending charitable foundation in the world, after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, investing principally in biomedical science, the medical humanities and public engagement. The trust is providing part-funding for the work of the Review, and hosting the team at its London headquarters.

  • the review will be tweeting about the report via its official account, @ReviewonAMR

For media queries, please contact:

Stuart Adam, Head,
Press and Communications
British High Commission, Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021
Tel: 44192100; Fax: 24192411

Mail to: Sakthy Edamaruku

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Published 12 February 2016